Keating's 'special' relationship with Jakarta was undemocratic. After East Timor, Howard is right not to rush back.
In the first weeks of September last year, 70% of all public buildings and private residences in East Timor were destroyed. TNI and their militia surrogates displaced at least 75% of the population. Between 500 and 2000 East Timorese were slaughtered.
These statistics measure the denouement of 25 years of Indonesian state terror in occupied East Timor. They also indicate the scale of Canberra's greatest foreign policy failure since federation. At the very least, one might think that these grim statistics would prompt Australia's foreign policy elite and its adjunct the Jakarta lobby - to rethink an approach to diplomacy with Indonesia which has been so conspicuously discredited. Incredibly, this hasn't happened. Instead, those wanting a rapid return to business as usual with Jakarta are attempting to blame the Howard government for the collapse of the relationship.
Within a month of Interfet's deployment in East Timor, which finally brought the killings to an end, the editor of The Australian believed it was time for Canberra 'to withdraw from the military leadership role' in East Timor, because 'an ongoing military presence by Australia could hinder the peace process by continuing to antagonise militia groups'. Fortunately for the people of East Timor, his request was ignored.
The foreign editor of The Australian, Greg Sheridan, was also keen to 'make up' with Jakarta as soon as possible. Reflecting his employer's distaste for foreign policy driven by 'humanitarian and moralistic concerns' (Rupert Murdoch), Sheridan believed that the cause of the problem was Mr Howard's regrettable habit of listening to the views of his constituents: 'The government's worst statement was the prime minister saying in parliament recently that he wanted foreign policy to be in step with public opinion'.
Veteran Indonesia analyst Bruce Grant also identified Mr Howard as the problem. According to Grant, the prime minister is seen as 'unsympathetic to cultures and aspirations other than his own', a character trait that apparently puts him sharply at odds with leaders in Beijing, Tokyo and Kuala Lumpur. Howard is 'suspect' in Asia because he is a monarchist, lacks 'an emotional commitment to the fortunes of the region', and loves cricket 'which does not help in Indonesia'. Grant doesn't explain the perils inherent in Indonesia's bilateral relations with other cricket-playing nations such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, nor does he note the damage done to ties with Kuala Lumpur when Malaysia hosted a cricket tournament during the last Commonwealth Games.
Cultural deference is clearly Grant's recommended strategy for engaging with Asia. The onus is on Australia, and only Australia, to change its ways. There is no suggestion of reciprocity from the region, even in the light of last year's horror in East Timor.
According to ANU Indonesia specialist Harold Crouch, Mr Howard's response to the terror in East Timor last year, rather than the slaughter itself, 'was offensive to many Indonesians'. The prime minister has a limited cultural understanding of Australia's great northern neighbour and 'doesn't quite know how to convey things to Indonesians', he says - true enough as messages such as 'stop the killing' clearly fell on deaf ears in Jakarta last September.
Former diplomat Tony Kevin also worried about Australia's 'provocative' behaviour last year. 'Indonesian military and strategic elites will not quickly forgive or forget how Australian foreign policy cynically exploited their weak interim president in order to manoeuvre Indonesia into a no-win situation', says Kevin. If only John Howard stopped basking in 'jingoistic self-satisfaction over East Timor' and said sorry, bridges with Indonesia could be mended.
More recently, professional Asianists have sought to engender a moral panic about the current state of Australia's relationships with the region by claiming that John Howard's intervention in East Timor is indicative of a broader rejection of regional engagement. What they really mean is that Howard is ignoring the specific rules of engagement that they have drafted for successive Australian governments. Even more disturbing, the coalition isn't seeking their wise counsel.
According to his critics, Howard has disengaged Australia from the region, repudiating 'the Australia project in Asia' (Stephen Fitzgerald), painstakingly nurtured by every Australian prime minister since Whitlam. Emblematic of this has been the collapse of bilateral ties with Jakarta: 'Forty years of bipartisan effort to build up a relationship with Indonesia have been seriously eroded by recent events', argues Richard Woolcott, without detailing these 'events' or specifying the responsibility Jakarta bears for the downturn. 'The relationship has been destroyed?. Indonesians feel betrayed by Australia', laments Rawdon Dalrymple, who already looks back at the Suharto years with a nostalgia unlikely to be shared by the victims of the dictatorship: 'I fear we shall not see the like of him [Suharto] again'.
According to leading Sinologist Stephen Fitzgerald, 'in the game of self-identifying regions' Australia must 'commit to and find acceptance in Asia'. Our 'fundamental problem is that while we may have come to mouth the sentiment of belonging to the region, we have done too little to belong in human terms or to make the necessary cultural and intellectual adjustment'.
Under the old orthodoxy, Asia was seen as an exclusive club which Canberra must seek to join being left out would be 'a disaster for Australia'. Our need for belonging, however, brings with it obligations of membership which require us to alter our ethical and cultural outlook. The price of admission to the Asia club is never explicitly conceded, but by implication it includes the sublimation of our European political heritage, a less assertive commitment to universal human rights, and a greater sense of cultural deference to Asian sensitivities.
But does Asia see itself this way, as a club? If not, should we?
An alternative explanation for recent policy changes is that the Howard government is reflecting a popular unease with the rules of Asian engagement previously set by Australia's foreign policy elite though not the need for engagement per se. This discomfort dovetails with the prime minister's personal ambivalence about Asia, which is partly based on ignorance and partly on an exaggerated sense of the importance of cultural differences in international politics.
Howard believes that the Keating government's style of Asian engagement was elitist and lacking in domestic popular support, hence it was ultimately driven underground. In 1995 both the intention to negotiate and the content of the Australia-Indonesia security agreement was withheld from the public until after it was signed an unusual departure from the concept of 'due process'. Howard is perhaps understating the need for government leadership in this area of public policy, but he has correctly identified a widening cleavage between elite and popular perceptions of how Australia should present itself to the region.
Many Australians believe they can be equal partners in Asia without sacrificing their political or cultural identity: they merely ask to be accepted at face value. Differences between nations and cultures can be respected, they don't need to be resolved or dissolved. Convergence is unnecessary. Economic ties prompted by globalising forces, for example, are rarely dependent on shared values. Australia's most important bilateral trade relationship with Japan was formed at a time when anti-Japanese feelings in Australia were still potent from the Second World War. Many Australians would feel they have little to learn from the legal and political processes in most East Asian societies.
The outlines of a new orthodoxy about events in East Timor last year are becoming clear, at least as far as the Jakarta lobby is concerned. It's a strategic mix of inverted history and national self-flagellation.
Despite the absence of any alternative regional responses to the slaughter, Canberra 'took too much ownership of the process' (Greg Sheridan), meaning the East Timorese should have been left to their awful fate. Indonesia has nothing to be sorry about and no reparations to pay. The Howard government, on the other hand, was 'meddling' (Richard Woolcott) in Indonesia's internal affairs, and has been engaged in 'gratuitous displays of jingoism' (Peter Hartcher), as well as 'triumphalism', 'neo-colonialism' and 'latent racism' (Richard Woolcott).
According to this re-writing of history, Howard is primarily to blame for the cooling of the bilateral relationship between Canberra and Jakarta because he abandoned his predecessor's 'special relationship' with Indonesia and is personally uncomfortable with regional engagement.
An alternative view is that the Howard Government has deliberately distanced itself from what it regards as the supine posture of its predecessor because it believes the public disliked the morally dubious relationship struck between the Keating government and the New Order regime specifically, and what it saw as an 'over-accommodation with Asia' more generally. When Canberra cashed the bilateral cheque last September it bounced, despite claims about the 'ballast' which Gareth Evans and Paul Keating allegedly infused into the relationship.
For the Jakarta lobby, the bilateral relationship is refracted through the personalities of Howard and Wahid. Leaders' summits are more important than building democratic institutions. According to former diplomat Duncan Campbell, the lobby is 'making a ritual study of the entrails of Wahid's spasmodic performance divining how Javanese, and how much of an expression of Asian values it all is'. This is simply replacing the Suharto cult with the Wahid cult, a strategy which promises to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Howard, however, is unimpressed with Wahid's unpredictable and erratic performance, and is unsure that he yet commands support across the spectrum of Javanese elite opinion. The prime minister sees no need for an urgent restoration of good relations and is prepared to wait to deal with Jakarta on his terms. In the meantime he would be well advised to offer tangible support to those nascent democratic institutions which will embed a more liberal political and civic culture in Indonesia. This is much more important than the atmospherics of leaders' meetings.
Scott Burchill (email@example.com) teaches international relations at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
Until Gus Dur can bring military business activities under control, they won't go 'back to barracks'
In 1998 a study by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) exposed, not for the first time, the fact that the military had their fingers in the country's economic pie. What was different this time was the coverage it received in the media, exposing the size and variety of the pies in which the generals had their 'sticky fingers'. Amid the protests that led to Suharto's fall, military business activities were yet another 'open secret' to join the fray. Business down the barrel of a gun, a practice as old as Indonesia itself, has been lucrative indeed. Military business assets were estimated to be greater than US$8 billion in 1998. These activities are pervasive, corrupt and exist in the formal, informal, and even criminal economic sectors.
There can be no mistaking Gus Dur's desire to return the military to barracks and democratise both politics and the economy. But it is proving to be a delicate balancing act. The president has warned that the country still needs the armed forces as an institution, and should therefore not engage in 'anti TNI sentiment'. Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono remarked recently that Indonesia couldn't yet afford democracy. For most it is a daily battle for survival, he observed, and only 10% of Indonesians can afford the luxury of participating in democracy.
Like most ordinary Indonesians, the military rank and file does not reap rich rewards from their institution's business activities. The military initially became involved in commercial activities because the government could not afford to provide for their welfare and running costs. So what has changed since Gus Dur became president?
The government is still unable to provide for the needs of the military. Regular salaries do not adequately provide for the basic needs of personnel. Recent salary increases to public servants and the military averaging 30 percent are a start, but have made little difference with prices spiraling. While it is generally agreed that higher salaries do not necessarily guarantee less corruption and 'extra-military' activities, it would at least be a starting point.
Late last year Juwono Sudarsono demanded a 62.9 percent increase in the 2000-2001 defence budget, arguing that if this was not forthcoming the professionalism of the military as a defence force would continue to be compromised by corruption and commercial activities. Theodore Friend of the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Washington says such commercial activities only produce 'clumsy entrepreneurs and flabby soldiers'. However, the 2000 defence budget did not include any raise. At Rp 10.1 trillion (about US$ 1.4 billion) it involved no change - it was merely a percentage of the 1999 budget to reflect its nine-month duration.
Nevertheless the military's hierarchy of needs is no secret. Armed forces chief Admiral Widodo Adisucipto has announced a 'wish list' of naval vessels and aircraft upgrades. He specifically mentioned the planned purchase of two Parcham-class corvettes and upgrades of seven F-16A/B jet fighters, at a combined cost of over Rp60 billion. He also wants large fast patrol craft. Navy chief Admiral Sucipto recently revealed plans to increase personnel numbers by 20,000 over five years to facilitate the expanding role of the navy. The result? More sticky fingers will be dipping into the economic pie.
The government has recently announced it intends to turn to China for weapons in its attempt to side step what it regards as politically motivated procurement barriers raised by the US and other Western defence manufacturers. Preference for these equipment upgrades was borne out by a confidential Indonesian military source who recently conceded to me that the priority is to channel additional government defence allocation to 'modernisation and maintenance of equipment', rather than to use it as a lever to extract the military from business by raising salaries even more.
In addition to weapons a considerable portion of the budget is to be allocated to recruitment and training. Here we have an institution that openly declares its inability to adequately compensate existing personnel, but still intends to increase its numbers. Until the effects of the crisis were felt in 1998, military budgets increased throughout the 1990s. But the number of active personnel also rose, from 270,000 active regulars in 1990 to 298,000 by the late 1990s (excluding paramilitary forces of around 177,000). These personnel increases made it impossible for budget increases to deliver enhanced welfare benefits.
Indonesian defence spending is much higher than that declared in the official budget. Revrisond Baswir, a prominent Indonesian economist, has suggested that the declared defence budget accounts for only 25 percent of true defence spending. The rest comes from military cooperatives, foundations and stock purchases, and from corrupt practices at the institutional, group and individual level. Profits from these 'ventures' are divided three ways. Some is siphoned off to well-placed individuals, some is reinvested in the companies, and some becomes extra-budgetary income for the military. The true amounts can only be guessed at.
The government has stated it must continue to accept these commercial activities as an inevitable necessity until it can afford to increase the defence budget. This means it is also implicitly saying it has no alternative but - to use an increasingly popular Indonesian euphemism - to expect a certain 'leakage' of any profits from these unsupervised businesses to individuals and groups within the military.
Gus Dur has recognised the wisdom of not trying to put the cart before the horse. Only when the problem of the official defence budget has been addressed can the government claim the moral authority to insist that the military relinquish its hold on the economy. Indeed in a country where the military remains the most efficiently functioning institution, this may be a wise move. Meanwhile a network of military influence continues, together with an institutional mindset that accepts off-budget financing as normal - a potentially unsettling combination.
Gus Dur wants to turn Indonesia into a fully functioning democracy, but removing the military from business is not top of the list on his hierarchy of priorities. In the months since taking office he has certainly declared his intention to stamp out endemic corruption, improve corporate governance (a pledge to the IMF), and oversee the retreat of the military from civil society.
But his real priorities have become quite apparent. They have been, firstly, to adopt an individual rather than an institutional focus by filling key positions with reformists both in the military and in government.
His second priority seems to have been to meet the requirements of the January 2000 IMF Letter of Intent (LoI) in order to secure the economic bailout on offer. Failure to deliver all reforms stipulated in the LoI has already led to a delay in the next US$ 400 million of the three-year US$5 billion support package. Following this action by the IMF, Gus Dur's somewhat confusing policy orations quickly sharpened to focus on these reforms, 90 percent of which the government says have now been met. Article 31 of the LoI addresses off-budget funds. The government intends to increase transparency and has instructed the State Audit Board (BPKP) that future audits of government agencies' financial operations should 'take full account of all extra-budgetary sources of support'. This 'best practice' begins in 2000 and 'will include the military'. Unfortunately this is the limited extent of the government's attempts to extract the military from business - military businesses will now be accountable to an independent audit.
Gus Dur is no doubt treading carefully. Powerful interests are at stake, perhaps none more so than the very existence of his government. As Indonesia continues to languish in the aftermath of the economic crisis there will be no significant increase in the defence budget for the foreseeable future. The military will become more rather than less reliant on a diminishing number of extra-budgetary sources - which themselves have suffered in the economic crisis. In the past, the 'clumsy entrepreneurs' had access to such perks and privileges that many businesses were kept afloat which were not commercially viable. Those military businesses and business connections that have survived can no longer rely on the levels of patronage they previously received.
If the government pushes this, the only truly functioning government institution, offside, in other words, if it pushes reform quicker than the military can accept it, the results may bring even more chaos. Perhaps Gus Dur is wise to concentrate on consolidating his power rather on reform. But so long as this is the case, it is 'business as usual' for the military.
Ms Lesley McCulloch (firstname.lastname@example.org) is writing a study of Indonesian military spending for the Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) in Germany. BICC (www.bicc.de) is dedicated to promoting processes that shift resources away from the defence sector towards alternative civilian uses.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
The dreadful silence of an outspoken poet
Wiji Thukul wrestled with the daily realities of poverty and violence. During the late New Order he was acknowledged as one of Indonesia's best poets, and he remains a standard bearer for radical grass roots democratic change. His celebrated catch cry, Hanya satu kata: Lawan!Peringatan (Warning, 1986). Striking workers and protesting students still use it. It seems incongruous that till recently little was done to investigate the mysterious disappearance two years ago of this important contributor to Indonesia's democratic movement. (There's only one word: Resist!) is taken from his poem.
Living in Solo, Central Java, Wiji Thukul always identified first as a poor urban kampung resident who faced the same struggles as his neighbours: factory workers, street hawkers and scavengers. The son of a pedicab driver and with limited formal education, he worked as a day labourer before assisting his wife, Sipon, a tailor, working from home. They have a daughter, Wani, and a small son, Fajar Merah. When I first met them in 1993 they were subsisting on about AU$2 per day.
Through the irony of bewilderment, Wiji Thukul's poem, An odd puzzle (1993, see box), articulates the frustration of working class families who struggle to obtain the most basic necessities. They work long hours, producing a myriad of products, most of which they can never afford. The poem evolved from an evening conversation at a roadside stall.
Wiji Thukul's searing commitment to real change was not only uncomfortable for Suharto's New Order. The pro-democratic pretensions of many 'progressive' intelligentsia did not escape his sting. His larrikinism at an all-Java poets' convention held in Solo in 1993 shattered the sombre atmosphere of their aloof readings on human rights. He engaged his enthusiastic audience with 'Displacing the clever people' (1993 - see language insert elsewhere in this edition). Thukul was wary of many 'cultural activists', students or NGOs who, despite much rhetoric, were unwilling to engage with the marginalised.
I remember a hilarious skit performed under Thukul's guidance by a group of local children to celebrate Independence Day in 1993. The children pretended to wash themselves in the public bath. They could never quite finish before someone pressed a buzzer informing them their time was up. Through play, music and theatre these children became critical observers of the social reality shaping their lives. Their parents were jailed for drinking, gambling or fighting, they were exploited as child labourers, a nearby dye factory dirtied their water, their homes were always flooding, they queued daily for the public amenities.
Thukul, and a few who dared to associate with him, were under continual surveillance. In December 1995 he almost lost an eye after he was bashed while security forces broke up a large protest he helped organise with local textile workers.
Around 1993-4 Thukul became affiliated with the PRD, a radical left-wing political party outlawed by the Suharto regime. Thukul headed the PRD's Peoples Art Network (Jakker). After the 27 July 1996 riot following the military-backed invasion of the PDI headquarters in Jakarta, the PRD were made scapegoats. Thukul went into hiding, as did other PRD leaders. Sipon and children met secretly with Thukul in December 1997, then lost contact with him. He was in contact with some of his friends up until April 1998.
When I met Sipon again in February this year, she recounted that for about two years after Thukul vanished she lived a sleepless nightmare of not knowing his fate. Her family was constantly harassed. She secretly burnt many reference materials critical of the New Order, and buried some of Thukul's more important writings, before security personnel entered the house and stole what was left. The family was isolated and the children's workshop disbanded as neighbours stayed away. Sipon lived in constant fear that her children might be kidnapped to draw Thukul out.
Though still deeply traumatised, Sipon has worked on courageously. She recently paid off a loan for a second, better sewing machine. Slowly winning back her neighbours, she has also recommenced the children's workshop.
There have been several unconfirmed sightings of Thukul over the last two years in Jakarta, Kalimantan and East Java. It is doubtful he ever left Indonesia. But it is difficult to understand why he should remain in hiding. PRD leader Budiman Sudjatmiko has said he fears Thukul became the victim of a government purge.
Sipon recently registered Thukul with Kontras, the Commission for Missing People and Victims of Violent Acts. Her determination attracted media attention. Two Yogyakarta groups, Taring Padi and FKRY, organised readings of his poetry and started a petition. They want Thukul's case raised as part of a full investigation into the 27 July incident.
Richard Curtis (email@example.com) teaches at Curtin University in Perth, Australia. More information on Thukul is in his PhD thesis 'People, poets, puppets' (Curtin University, 1997). Readers who know of Wiji Thukul's whereabouts should contact Richard.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
A young activist jailed under Suharto is stirring more opposition to Wahid too
Nick Everett talks with Budiman Sujatmiko
Budiman Sujatmiko chairs the Indonesian People's Democratic Party, PRD. He first became active in the movement for democracy in 1988, when he was a student at Yogyakarta's Gadjah Mada University. The New Order regime jailed him for more than three years. He was not released till December 1999, six weeks after Abdurrahman Wahid was elected president. Together with Avelino da Silva, secretary-general of the Timorese Socialist Party PST, Sujatmiko recently visited Australia on a speaking tour organised by Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor (Asiet). I caught up with Sujatmiko during his visit to Sydney on April 12.
Wahid was elected in October 1999 amid mass protests against continued Golkar rule. His appointment continued a process of reform begun under B J Habibie. Acting under the growing pressure of a mass anti-dictatorship movement demanding 'reformasi total', the Habibie government had passed legislation for multi-party elections, reduced the armed forces representation in parliament, withdrew some of the most repressive labour laws, and instituted a UN-supervised referendum in East Timor. The Wahid government subsequently forced Golkar-appointed military commander General Wiranto out of cabinet, finished releasing political prisoners, and launched its own investigation into human rights abuses by the armed forces in East Timor last September.
Australian and other Western governments have touted these reforms as proof of the new government's commitment to democracy. Sujatmiko and the PRD do not share this view.
'These are just the minimum criteria for democracy,' Sujatmiko explained. 'Freedom of speech, freedom of assembly these offer the chance for the majority to rule. But if those liberties do not actually result in majority rule, then we do not have democracy in the true sense.'
Sujatmiko concedes that, unlike his predecessors Suharto and Habibie, 'Wahid is not a bureaucrat.' However, 'he has no policy to deliver better living standards or to end the threat of unemployment - his policies cannot deliver "people friendly" outcomes,' he said.
Sujatmiko argues that this is most clearly demonstrated by Wahid's pursuit of an economic restructuring program imposed by the International Monetary Fund. 'If the policies dictated by the IMF are fully implemented in the next three years, the majority of the people will have to bear the burden of an increased cost of living, driving them under the poverty line,' he said. 'The 1997 economic crisis has already resulted in 37 million unemployed this figure will continue to rise if the IMF policies are implemented further.'
IMF demands to restructure the economy have robbed Indonesia of its economic independence. Sujatmiko likens it to the experience of Latin American countries since the 1980s. 'Privatisation, financial liberalisation, deregulation of trade and investment, reduced state subsidies this is the same as the neo-liberal policies that have been pursued in Latin America.'
'Wahid has given a commitment to the IMF that he will cut state subsidies, resulting in higher petrol, electricity and transport prices and increased education fees,' says Sujatmiko. 'He has said that he has to do this to reduce dependency on foreign debt and the IMF.' However, opposition to price hikes refreshed the memory of mass demonstrations against similar hikes that brought down the Suharto dictatorship in 1998. It forced Wahid to delay the fuel price increase and the increase in civil service salaries. 'Wahid is playing between two poles,' notes Sujatmiko: 'the IMF and the people.'
'He wants to win sympathy from the people, but his concessions are still not enough. He has created anger by proposing to increase salaries for the first echelon bureaucracy by 2000%. What he has done is not based on a clear-cut vision,' states Sujatmiko. 'Objectively, the Wahid government remains loyal to the dictates of the IMF and of Western governments. Wahid is seeking to use his popular following to position himself to implement this austerity program.'
No serious opposition is emerging to this economic program from the parties represented in Indonesia's newly elected parliament. 'The PRD is the only political party criticising this program,' Sujatmiko says, 'in unity with other democratic forces: the student movement and trade unions.'
'Workers and students have come to parliament to protest the cutting of subsidies, and teachers have mobilised in many centres in Indonesia demanding a 300% increase in their salaries. There has been unrest and social discontent. Bus drivers, taxi drivers and others have taken action against the increase in transport costs. This has given the people confidence: they can now act as political groups to put pressure on the government so that the government must listen to the people.'
Growing opposition to the IMF's demands has strengthened the PRD's advocacy of an alternative economic program. 'We have already come to parliament and met with its members and presented our proposals,' Sujatmiko tells me. The PRD advocates: cancellation of the foreign debt, a progressive tax on high incomes, taxes on the sale of luxury goods, a reduced military budget, and expropriation of Suharto's assets (estimated to be worth US$16 billion) and those of corrupt bureaucrats and military businesses.
'One of these proposals has been accepted already taxes on luxury goods,' explained Sujatmiko. 'These measures are needed to create a fund that can maintain state subsidies for essential services.'
On the prospects of a trial for Suharto, Sujatmiko says: 'There are protests by the student movement now almost every day in Indonesia. These actions have included attempts to occupy Suharto's house and demand that he face a "people's tribunal", because they have no confidence in the Indonesian justice system. A fair trial of Suharto and corrupt bureaucrats, as well as of generals responsible for human rights abuses, cannot possibly take place under the current justice system. Cleaning up the justice system is potentially a very radical thing. It cannot be achieved simply by replacing judges. The system itself needs to change.'
On the possibility of an international tribunal to try the generals responsible for the violence in East Timor, Sujatmiko observes: 'The UN itself is not demanding an international tribunal, but is there any alternative? We support a campaign for an international tribunal because it has the potential not only to address past injustices but will draw attention to the political role of the armed forces in Indonesia. While the factions in parliament have agreed not to give seats to the armed forces in the next parliamentary term, the structural issue of the role of the military through the territorial command system is yet to be addressed.'
In recent weeks, a Wahid proposal to lift the 1966 ban on communism has stirred much public debate. Wahid now indicates he wants to un-ban communism while retaining a ban on the Indonesian Communist Party PKI.
More than a million PKI members and sympathisers were killed following the Suharto regime's seizure of power in a military coup in October 1965. 'Wahid has issued a statement of apology to the PKI,' explained Sujatmiko. 'He has no phobia about any ideology, he gives permission for people to live with any faith or ideology in Indonesia he is liberal-minded. But both conservative Islamic forces and the military are opposed to this, including forces inside the cabinet such as the religious Crescent and Star Party PBB, and Amien Rais who chairs PAN, while Vice-President Megawati is silent on the issue. Opposition within Wahid's own cabinet has pressed him to concede to maintaining the ban on the PKI.'
Sujatmiko notes that 'while the unbanning of communism would enable the distribution of Marxist literature - the Communist Manifesto, for example - the question of whether we would openly campaign for socialism is a tactical one. We need to give a socialist perspective, not as something that is attainable in the near future or programmatic in the short term, but as our longer-term objective. More immediately we must continue to campaign for "people's democracy", because this lays the basis for raising consciousness. We are defending ourselves as a leftist party with one goal: promoting popular-oriented democracy and socialism in the context of capitalism as it exists in Indonesia now.'
Under the New Order, the PRD experienced severe repression. Its members were hunted down, jailed, kidnapped and killed. I asked Sujatmiko: 'What is it for you that commits you to remain a PRD activist, in what you describe as a "leftist party"?'
'Commitment,' he responded. 'It is not something that can be explained in a few words. It has to be explained in deeds. You have to look for the answer in practical experience.'
'Since the very beginning the PRD has been built on a solid theoretical, ideological base that is absent in Indonesia's non-government organisations or other political parties. Most other parties are built for running their chairperson for the presidency. We have been building the PRD in the context of the ongoing struggle of the mass movement, the people's movement. So for us the existence of the PRD does not depend on the objective political situation,' he explains. 'Democracy or not, we are still there.'
'We draw on the lessons of the past in Indonesia in revolutionary struggles against Dutch colonialism. We draw on the lessons of people's movements around the world: if you want something worthwhile you have to pay for it. You may have to go without, to live in prison, in order to win the bigger freedom for the people you want to defend. If you live in a society where exploitation is blatant, naked and very repressive, then your decision to fight for the greater liberty of all by reducing your own personal liberty is something logical and can be accepted not just by rational logic but by our own consciousness.'
Nick Everett is a member of the Sydney committee of Asiet (email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.asiet.org.au).
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
Regional autonomy (Law 22/1999)
Regencies (kabupaten) and municipalities will be autonomous regions that are not part of the central government regional administrative hierarchic structure. Districts (kecamatan), subdistricts and villages are included in the regency and municipality administrative structure. Regency/ municipality offices of central government organisations are abolished or transferred to the regency/ municipality.
Break-up of functions
Central government and provinces have certain functions reserved for them. Regencies and municipalities can assume responsibility for anything not explicitly allocated to the central or provincial governments. They must assume responsibility for functions in 11 listed sectors.
Transfer of appropriate resources (infrastructure and facilities, personnel and funding) is specified as part of these decentralised functions.
Guidance and supervision
Central government guidance has been liberalised.
Regional Autonomy Advisory Board
Will provide advice to the president concerning regional autonomy.
Provinces remain as both autonomous regions and part of the central government regional administrative structure.
Regional elected assemblies
Their roles, procedures, powers, functions and rights are substantially unchanged.
Role of most existing institutions
DPRD secretariat, regional head, regional apparatus, regional regulations, regional civil service, regional finance (see Law 25 below), regional cooperation and settlement of disputes, village government - these all retain their familiar form.
Money matters (Law 25/1999)
All central government subsidies to the regions are replaced by 'Balance Funds' that include a greater percentage share of building and land taxes, and that now give the regions a set percentage of natural resources, oil and gas revenue produced in the region.
Regional autonomy balance council
Will allocate general and special allocation funds.
Internal regional revenue
Other sources of internal revenue remain unchanged and consist of regional taxes and levies, regional enterprise profits, miscellaneous internal revenue, and regional loans (little use has been made of this latter source to date).
Both laws require considerable supplementary legislation before they can be implemented. The previous regional government law (Law 5/ 1974) was never implemented fully because the required regulations were either never passed or were inconsistent with the decentralisation law. As it is, Law 25, which is really a supplementary law to Law 22, is in fact inconsistent with it in some instances.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
Decentralise. Easy to say. Difficult to do.
Few states have had as long an experience of decentralisation as has Indonesia. The Dutch, primarily to increase administrative effectiveness, enacted the first law for decentralisation in 1903. It was the first of several designs. Yet Indonesia today is more centralised than it was a century ago. Many states, in particular developing ones, have attempted to decentralise for a bewildering variety of administrative, political and economic reasons. It is a technically complex policy, especially for developing countries. Yet decentralisation is a political as well as an administrative necessity for Indonesia. However daunting the task, Indonesia is so diverse that it has to decentralise, and sooner rather than later.
A recent World Bank study noted that the 'problems associated with decentralisation in developing countries reflect flaws in design and implementation more than any inherent outcome of decentralisation'. Policymakers may not sufficiently understand the specific problems they want to overcome through decentralisation, or they may adopt an ineffective strategy to solve them. Implementation is inherently even more difficult. Policymakers may give the field implementers unclear guidelines. Implementers may lack the required skills and commitment. The policy may lack sufficiently powerful political mentors and organised support to carry it through. Changing circumstances may make the policy redundant, or it may be insufficiently resourced.
Much of this has been the case in Indonesia. Flaws in the original design forced the colonial Dutch to revise the 1903 law in 1921. None of the three 1940's decentralisation laws was satisfactory - they did not apply to all of Indonesia, and they were framed during the anti-colonial struggle for independence, when expediency rather than longer-term considerations was the priority. The Dutch were still working towards implementing the amended design when the Japanese invaded in 1942.
The independent Republic of Indonesia enacted a replacement for these Dutch attempts in 1957. Law 1/ 1957 came out of lengthy negotiations, only to be rendered inoperative in many of its provisions by Presidential Decree No 6 of 1959. The PRRI-Permesta regional rebellions gave President Sukarno the opportunity to replace constitutional democracy under the 1950 provisional constitution with presidential rule under the 1945 constitution.
The New Order tried to decentralise as well. Law 5 of 1974 was potentially an effective general design, negated by a lack of detailed design and implementation. Like the Dutch, the New Order leadership accepted the need for decentralisation if only as a means of enhancing administrative effectiveness, particularly with respect to development and thus its claims to legitimacy through performance. However, Law 5/ 1974 left many details to be finalised in subordinate legislation. This applied in particular to the problem of sectoral decentralisation - that is, the allocation of specific functions in the various fields of government activity to particular levels of government.
If the break-up of functions between the various levels of government had been included in Law 5 then many (but not all) of the subsequent problems would have been avoided. Sectoral decentralisation is technically complex. Moreover, many bureaucrats in the affected departments perceived decentralisation as detrimental to their institutional interests. This made determining the details a protracted process.
Indeed, if the details had been included in the draft, Law 5 might never have been enacted at all. Thus there may have been good reasons for deferring sectoral decentralisation to supplementary regulations. Still, the longer it took to enact the regulations the more difficult it became to maintain the political will to decentralise in accordance with the original objectives. French decentralisation was on a lesser scale than is being attempted in Indonesia, yet it still took decades, and that by a state with a much greater capacity than that of the often ill-coordinated personal fiefdoms of the Indonesian state.
Law 5/ 1974 had an additional problem. One of its aims was to shift the focus of regional autonomy from the provinces to the regencies (kabupaten) and municipalities. This level was closest to the people and thus the most appropriate for administering services. Before 1974, legislation dealt only with transfers of functions from the central government to the provinces. It regarded sectoral decentralisation to the regencies and municipalities as an internal provincial matter. Furthermore, between 1950 and 1974 the number of provinces had grown from 9 to 26, 17 sectors needed to be decentralised, and the legislation was confusing. On top of that, the oil boom allowed New Order sectoral departments to subvert the objectives of decentralisation by coopting the regions with development money.
In the early 1990's the New Order, especially under dynamic Interior Minister Rudini, sought to revive the impetus for decentralisation. Regulation 45/ 1992 was designed to push through decentralisation to the regencies and municipalities. All functions except those specified as central or provincial functions could go to the regencies and municipalities. Regulation 8/ 1995 implemented these changes and launched the 'Autonomous Regions Pilot Project'. Activities in 19 sectors were to be transferred to the regencies and municipalities (so-called level 2 regions). Inaugurated with great fanfare, this initiative failed because it was under-resourced. The central government gave selected level 2 regions greater responsibilities but no greater funding to go with them.
Last year, the Habibie government brought down Law 22/ 1999 to replace Law 5/ 1974. The new law, it said, would enhance 'democracy, community participation, equitable distribution and justice as well as to take into account the regions' potential and diversity'. Actually it was hardly needed. Law 5/ 1974 could just as well have been implemented to do all this. What was really needed was the supplementary legislation.
The changes are not as great as often imagined. Although consideration was given to abolishing them, the provinces have been retained. (There are compelling reasons for retaining them - they bridge the centre and local communities). However, Law 22 is more specific about the role of the regencies and municipalities than was Law 5. They are no longer part of the hierarchy of 'administrative territories' which made them subordinate to the provinces and hence the centre. As with Regulation 45/ 1992, Law 22 states that the regencies and municipalities can assume responsibility for all aspects of government except those reserved for the central and provincial governments. These regions must in any case assume responsibility for a minimum of eleven fields or sectors, a provision similar to that of Regulation 8 of 1995.
Law 22 also clearly stipulates that the decentralisation of functions to the regions must include the transfer of the relevant resources - facilities and infrastructure, personnel and funding. Obviously the framers of Law 22 have learned something from the failure of the 'Autonomous Regions Pilot Project'.
Yet like Law 5/ 1974, Law 22/ 1999 requires considerable supplementary legislation. With one notable exception little of this legislation has yet been passed. Law 5 and Law 22 both required a replacement for Law 32/ 1956, the inoperable law determining fiscal relations between the centre and the regions. This was finally accomplished with the enactment of Law 25 of 1999. This law should increase revenue adequacy and certainty for the regions, improve regional equity, contribute to macroeconomic stability and enhance transparency, accountability and participation in the budgetary process. However, Law 25 itself also requires considerable supplementary legislation.
Regional development planning also still needs reform. In principle, bottom-up planning has been an important feature of Indonesian development planning processes (known as P5D) since 1982. But in practice the emphasis has been on implementing central government policies, programs and projects, and hence on increasing the effectiveness of regional sectoral agencies to implement rather than design policy. Nobody would argue that effective service delivery is not an important responsibility of the state, but this is not what decentralisation is all about.
At the heart of any decentralisation policy must be the realisation that effective policy requires a comprehensive understanding of local circumstances - so comprehensive that central planners simply cannot do it themselves. Diversity requires diverse policy inputs. If decentralisation is to be effective in Indonesia, regional development planning has to be reoriented towards the needs and potentials of the region itself.
Trevor Buising (email@example.com) is a consultant from Brisbane, Australia. He is a former colonial administrator in Papua New Guinea who recently completed a PhD on Indonesian decentralisation at Griffith University.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
An extract from Sulami's speech at YPKP's first anniversary
"Indonesia at this moment, all Indonesians, feel that this country is moving towards something new. Something free from the darkness of oppression and exploitation, from the corruption, collusion and nepotism that was born out of absolute power, from the economic and political crisis that grew out of the greed of its leaders. No nation can move into the future with its feet chained to a historical burden, to those dark, traumatic moments that will forever haunt the national character in the future. That burden must be released. This nation must bravely face up to its fears, to the truth that lies behind the trauma. Only then can its character once more grow healthy and strong.
This is no different to other nations who have had to leave behind a black page in their histories. They first of all needed to know what happened. So that their grandchildren will know, and not repeat the same mistakes committed by their forebears, not experience the same disaster over and over again. The South African nation, black and white, worked together to investigate, to dig out, to expose all the wrongs that they experienced together. The Cambodian nation have opened up all their records from their dark past, they have let their eyewitnesses speak so that those crimes against humanity should never be repeated. The Argentineans have done the same. West Germans have welcomed their East German brethren: communists at that! Many other nations have had the courage to face up to their dark past, to open up that bitter reality and then move ahead as nations that have become more democratic."
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
Victims of the 1965-66 anti-communist mass murders are working to expose the truth. They face some determined opposition.
The simple office sits in a cheap housing estate in Tangerang, 20 km west of Jakarta. On a tiny 250 square metre corner block, the house is not much to look at. Sulami is 74 years old and often sick. She and her younger sister rented this office in March 2000 to run the Research Institute for Victims of the '65-'66 Killings (Yayasan Penelitian Korban Pembunuhan 65-66, YPKP).
They set up the institute on 7 April 1999 to collect information on the mass murders that claimed about two and a half million lives. Last March they visited the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM). They explained they wanted to work towards prosecuting those responsible for gross human rights violations against Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) members or alleged members in 1965-66. They were considering prosecuting the Suharto government. However, Komnas HAM said they could only offer limited support because rules restricting the movement of people once labeled 'communist' were still in effect.
Supported by several non-government organisations, the YPKP committee became the first group to demand that a 1966 government decree banning the teaching and spreading of communism-Marxism/ Leninism (known as Tap no. XXV/MPRS/1966) be abolished. They first tried to meet with the speaker of parliament, but failed.
A number of groups do not want the historical truth of the events around the 1 October 1965 Incident (when General Suharto took control of Jakarta and later of the country) exposed. An Islamic jihad group armed with swords recently visited President Gus Dur in his palace and expressed their anger because he wanted to abolish the 1966 decree on human rights grounds.
Even some leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama, Gus Dur's own religious organisation, vented their anger at him when at a Friday prayer meeting he suddenly declared he wanted to say sorry to the 1965 victims and their families. Gus Dur confessed that many members of NU's own youth organisation Banser had become militia members who took part in the massacres.
Muslim political parties within the loose Central Axis coalition had already begun to dislike Gus Dur's leadership when he showed a readiness to accommodate minority groups and open diplomatic relations with Israel. They seized on the proposal to abolish the 1966 anti-communist decree as a reason for building opposition to Gus Dur. Law and Legislation Minister Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who comes from the Crescent Star Party PBB, even felt called to express his disapproval of his president's idea openly at the party's congress in early April. He had to do this to avoid being beaten in the race for party president by hardliners such as Fadli Zon, Eggi Sudjana and Ahmad Sumargono. When Yusril vowed to resign from cabinet if Gus Dur pushed ahead with his proposal to abolish the decree, he was greeted with loud applause.
The birth of YPKP and the unwonted appearance in public of several prominent leftists who had once been political prisoners, combined with the president's idea about the 1966 decree, made a lot of people fear the rebirth of the communist party PKI. Some parliamentarians even said the very survival of the state was at stake. Young people held some well-organised demonstrations opposing Gus Dur's idea in big cities in Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi. Some observers suspected that military officers with a grudge against Gus Dur were behind the actions.
The most amazing thing is that the strongest opposition to Gus Dur's reconciliatory idea came from old nationalists like Ruslan Abdulgani, who said it would provide an opportunity for the PKI to regroup. In Sukarno's days, Ruslan was the spokesman for a political manifesto that put forward the idea of combining nationalist, religious and communist parties into a single front called Nasakom.
Sulami, who was once secretary-general of the Indonesian Women's Movement (Gerwani), doesn't feel too anxious about these political developments. 'I believe President Gus Dur will push ahead with reformasi. Democratisation will go on. This will give millions of victims of the 1965 Incident a chance to discover the truth', she said.
To this end Sulami and her colleagues, among them committee members outside Jakarta and a French researcher, are busy building a database of all the cruelties inflicted around the military-backed 1965 Incident. Despite a shortage of funds, YPKP is growing. Branches now exist in several cities in Java, Bali, West Sumatra, and North, Central and South Sulawesi. 'Of course many of our supporters are our own compatriots. Most of them were on Buru Island', Sulami said.
Together with the human rights group Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa (NSB) and ably assisted by some young members of the People's Democratic Party PRD, YPKP on 5-15 April held a training session on the techniques necessary to investigate the 1965-66 killings. About a hundred people attended it. Initially the exercise was to be held in a Catholic retreat centre, but that failed when the proprietors found themselves being terrorised by military intelligence and several people who said they belonged to an Islamic group. These people threatened to burn down the place just as had been done to the (Protestant) Doulos Complex in Cipayung, East Jakarta, when they insisted on going ahead with hosting training for former PKI members.
Hasan Raid, former member of the High Command to Retool Revolutionary Elements (Kotrar) and now an advisor to YPKP, said the appearance of YPKP had stimulated anxiety among some people that their crimes against humanity in the past would be exposed. 'People who talk about a PKI revival are actually telling us more about their own fears that the sins they committed against their fellow citizens under the protection of the 1966 decree will be revealed', said this old man, who spent thirteen years detained without trial in Nusakembangan jail and who is now a grandfather.
YPKP says its only interest in opening an investigation into the 1965 mass killings is to discover the truth. 'If the PKI is proven wrong, let it be wrong. I am only challenging the way punishment was meted out. It's just the killings that we are making an issue of', Sulami explained. YPKP intends to conduct an evaluation of its discoveries in December 2000. 'At that time we will decide if we have enough data to proceed to prosecution or not. If not, we will go on collecting more information that has been kept secret by the New Order powers all this time', Sulami went on.
The idea of setting up YPKP arose from a simple humanitarian impulse. Between the Incident of 1 October 1965 and when the military arrested her in early 1967, Sulami had moved around freely for a year and a half. She heard a lot of stories about the military murdering civilians they suspected of communism, and even saw some herself. After her release she worked in the catering section of a detention centre. Bit by bit she saved the money she earned for the purpose of conducting an investigation into the murders. Her data gathering efforts became more intensive when she was asked to accompany several foreign researchers to some remote locations. She used these trips to add to her own data set.
In June 1998 a television crew came from Australia to make a documentary on efforts to open a mass grave in Blora, East Java. Sulami became the main source for the film. It was later broadcast simultaneously in several countries on 30 September 1998. Among those who contacted her with messages of support were the novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Hasan Raid, Kusalah Subagio Toer (Pramoedya's brother and formerly with Lekra), Sumini Martono (widow, formerly with Gerwani), Dr Ribka Tjiptaning and Haryo Sungkono. This eventually led to the establishment of YPKP
Stanley is a journalist in Jakarta.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000
Two years after Suharto, authoritarian values remain strong. But new groups are emerging to challenge them.
Suharto already looked vulnerable before the last New Order election in 1997, when riots broke out in various places. Then economic crisis followed, and the state fell into disarray. Kidnapping activists in early 1998 was merely the pinnacle of reaction by a disorganised state under increasing pressure. I was myself a target. We didn't have much choice but to try to stop the state from doing worse. I could not help feeling we were toppling a political order. The kidnapped activists were close to me - some disappeared after chatting with me in my office or at home.
Many people volunteered to work for Kontras in early 1998 because it offered leadership for their desire to resist state violence. Not just students but nurses and doctors wanted to volunteer. We knew then change could no longer be delayed.
But after Suharto fell, it was his corruption rather than his human rights crimes that became the centre of debate. Human rights cases became a kind of political commodity for the various civilian elites. They were used to gain concessions from the military. Corruption was different. There was no resistance from the military there. As a result anyone who wanted to be a democrat talked about corruption, even if they were Suharto's cronies.
When President Abdurrahman Wahid wanted to abolish the decree banning communism (TAP MPRS 25/ 1966) he was greeted with a strong negative reaction from society itself. Yet it was that decree that turned the New Order into something authoritarian right at its beginning by aiming to control ideology. Many of these social elements now threaten to topple the president. That, to me, shows how strong the New Order still is, albeit with a civilian face.
Gus Dur is such a contrast with the previous president. He's a religious teacher, a human rights activist, and a symbol of reconciliation. Indonesia today needs Gus Dur. As a democratic ideas person, he far exceeds any other political force in Indonesia. He is ready for democracy, but he is not as effective as he might be because he is surrounded by conservatives.
Formally speaking, the New Order is finished. But it survives in many prominent individuals and in values. Everywhere we see people talking about reformasi but protecting the New Order. I don't think there is a single political party without New Order figures in it. The New Order vision remains strong within them through their views on ideology and on society. Many political elites remain fearful of worker and peasant movements, which they describe as anarchism. They deliberately avoided mentioning labour and land issues during the last election.
The law, too, remains essentially New Order. Corruption is being dealt with using legal instruments that were never able to bring corruption to book during the New Order.
Almost the entire civil bureaucracy remains under the control of old New Order forces. They treat all questions about the abuses of the past as an attack on themselves. A mutualism has emerged between the bureaucracy and Suharto to resist calls for accountability.
The forces for renewal too are in confusion. Many of them have joined the new government. They are lost to the ongoing need to control the system. Many members of non-government organisations (NGOs) have joined the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR). Others have become party members. Intellectuals too have gone inside. This represents the loss of an enormous non-partisan resource that used to be available to push for change. What we have seen the past year does not make them look like a strong force for change from within either. Outside forces are still more effective. I think this is still a moment of crisis.
After the fall of Suharto many NGOs seemed to lose their sense of direction. They only had in mind toppling Suharto, so that when he was gone they were confused. But now we are seeing a new potential emerge. Throughout Indonesia, previously uninvolved teachers, workers, and journalists are creating a whole range of new institutions. These aim to fight corruption, resist violence, work for human rights. They call them Corruption Watch, Parliament Watch, Military Watch, and their numbers are extraordinary. We in Kontras have been overwhelmed by requests from the regions to help set them up. In these places people are completely new to political activism.
Not just the New Order has died these last two years (even though it survives in some forms), but the pro-democracy forces experienced the same problem. They have become a part of the new political system, while intensive opposition promoting democratisation outside the system is exercised by these newer groups. The new groups have a much better perspective on democracy than those who just focused on Suharto. They are questioning an authoritarian bureaucracy. No one has ever thought of that before. They believe parliament needs to be supervised. That's new too. Parliament was always just an appendage to power.
Then there is the military. Once it was the biggest taboo to criticise them. Now people even in the remote interior are openly setting up Military Watch organisations. There's one in Kalimantan, in Sulawesi, even in Madura. They're not good at media work yet. But they are quite well organised, and effective. They want to control the village military official (Babinsa) who tries to charge 'security' fees. They reject military interference in land conflicts or in the village head election. They may not make the papers but they are a real force.
Unfortunately the human rights struggle is sometimes claimed by certain groups - religious or ethnic - rather than by the whole society. This is very worrying. Instead of seeing the crimes of the state as abuses of human rights, people see them merely as a struggle between certain political forces. They see the 1984 Tanjung Priok massacre, for example, as a religious struggle, and this view lets Suharto off the hook. The May 1998 violence is seen the same way. Worse, it becomes a bargaining chip.
During the Indonesian East Timor inquiry of which I was a member, some portrayed the generals as belonging to one religious group and being 'scapegoated' by another. Military generals could no longer use their old political basis to protect themselves, so they began using religion and ethnicity. This is an enormous setback to the struggle for human rights.
However, I have a child, a year and a half old. I hope he will live in a better Indonesia - more democratic, better able to feed its enormous population, and having civilised values. In twenty years time, I'm optimistic it can be achieved.
This article was composed from an interview conducted with Munir by Gerry van Klinken on 16 May 2000. Contact Kontras by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inside Indonesia 63: Jul - Sep 2000